Hillsborough inquests: David Duckenfield was 'inexperienced'

David Duckenfield Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield was in charge of policing at Hillsborough stadium in 1989

The police chief at Hillsborough has agreed he was an "inexperienced" match commander faced with "unimaginably difficult circumstances".

David Duckenfield, giving evidence at the new inquests into the deaths of 96 football fans, added he was working to a "flawed operational (match) order".

On Tuesday, he agreed his failure to close a tunnel leading to the pens was the "direct cause" of the 1989 tragedy.

It followed his order to open an exit gate to relieve congested turnstiles.

Concluding his seven days of evidence, Mr Duckenfield, 70, was questioned by his barrister, John Beggs QC.

He asked the former chief superintendent: "In front of this jury, Mr Duckenfield, many family members in court, and many, many lawyers and journalists, you have admitted, haven't you, some very serious professional failures?"

"Yes, sir," he replied.

Mr Beggs said: "Do you agree that those serious failures were in circumstances where first you were new and inexperienced?"

The witness said: "Yes, sir."

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He agreed he was under "intense pressure" from 14:30 onwards and was dealing with "fast-moving circumstances".

Mr Beggs concluded: "When you went to Hillsborough on the morning of April 15, 1989 was the very last outcome that you envisaged or wished for was death or injury to a single football supporter in those central pens?"

Mr Duckenfield said: "I did not want that at all, sir."

Mr Duckenfield was promoted 19 days before the tragedy and inherited the role of match commander at Sheffield Wednesday's ground for the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

He told his barrister that on and leading up to the day he did not ignore any advice given by experienced officers, but he accepted as match commander that "the buck stops with me".

Mr Duckenfield agreed he had had nothing to do with previous turnstile "failures" at the ground and no-one had advised him about them.

In reality, he had "inherited" the police operation for the match.

'Boisterous and passionate'

The inquests also heard from policing expert Douglas Hopkins, who described how hooliganism in the 1980s led to the need to bring in strict segregation.

He said Liverpool supporters of the time were "boisterous" and "passionate", but "did not have a large hooligan group", and pitch invasions were not commonplace at the time.

The jury was shown a video compilation showing football violence in the 1980s.

Before it began, coroner Sir John Goldring told the court: "There is no question of football hooliganism playing any part in the Hillsborough disaster and no-one is suggesting as much."

Mr Hopkins told the jury the reason the greater number of Liverpool fans were given the smaller end at the Sheffield stadium rather than Nottingham Forest was so that segregation could be better achieved.

The allocation was also made because of the geographical direction from which the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest fans were arriving.

Liverpool had complained about this, the court heard.

Mr Hopkins, who was the safety officer in charge of the Olympic Stadium at the London 2012 Games, said 1,200 officers (38%) from the South Yorkshire force policed the match.

This was excessive, he told the court.

He said Mr Duckenfield would have been better to have sent his deputy out and about rather than keeping him in the control box.

The inquests, sitting in Warrington, Cheshire, are scheduled to resume on Thursday.

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